It may seem innocent enough, but picking up an apple from the ground of your own garden could put you on the wrong side of the law...
There are a myriad of little-known rules which, if broken, could turn even the most conscientious gardener into an unwitting criminal, inadvertently upsetting neighbours in the process.
Thankfully, the people at GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk are on hand to reveal the top seven laws you need to be aware of. How many are you guilty of breaking?
1. Trimming overhanging branches
If a tree's branches overhang into your property from a neighbour's, you can trim them, but only up to the property line. You can't lean into the neighbour's garden to do this though, as that would constitute trespass.
NB: If a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, you can't cut the branches, so it might be best to check first.
2. Picking fruit and flowers from your neighbour's tree
Although you can cut branches that hang into your garden up to the property line, they still belong to the neighbour – as do any flowers or fruit on them. Your neighbour is legally entitled to demand them back.
NB: Do not just throw windfallen fruit into the neighbour's garden, as this could constitute garden waste fly tipping.
3. Making the most of windfalls
Wind fallen fruit technically still belongs to the person who owns the tree. So, if your neighbour's apples or pears inadvertently end up on your lawn, ask for permission if you want to keep them.
4. Sweeping fallen leaves
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but tree owners are not responsible for sweeping up fallen leaves that land on your property. Better get that rake out.
5. Blocking other's light
Under the Rights of Light Act, if a window has received natural light for 20 years or more, neighbours legally can't block it with a new tree.
6. Creating fences and boundaries
Issues regarding boundaries can be tricky to resolve. The house deeds should indicate who owns fences and is responsible for boundaries (although there is no legal responsibility to keep boundaries well maintained, unless the deeds state otherwise). But boundaries can move over time and cause disputes later. You may need to contact HM Land Registry for help with boundary disputes.
7. Maintaining hedges
If a hedge grows along the boundary between two gardens, both neighbours are responsible for trimming. If a hedge belonging to a neighbour grows into your garden, you can trim it but, as with tree branches, you must return the trimmings to the owner.
Now you've got your legal knowledge in order, neighbourliness can ensue, just never underestimate the potential awkwardness caused by an overhanging branch.
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